Our original plan was to leave Rugen and drive directly to Hamburg, but thanks to an undelivered package we had to make a pit stop in Berlin. On our way to Berlin we were pulled over by a couple of cops in a small town where we exited to get gas. I gave them our passports and car rental documents and acted as innocently as a cherub while they radioed whoever they radio when they pull over two foreigners in a rental car. After 15 minutes they returned our stuff and let us continue on our way. We noticed that they had a canine in the back of their police van and we realized that they probably pulled us over because of our Netherlands plates and our shifty Asian eyes. I suppose there has probably been an increase in drugs crossing from the Netherlands into other European countries since the borders are more open nowadays.
We arrived in Berlin, picked up our package, and met our new Berlin besties for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant before heading out to Hamburg. Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin!
On our first day in Hamburg we explored the old town and a couple of churches. The Hamburg rathaus (townhall) was old and interesting. There were food vendors in front of the rathaus, but we didn’t get anything because it seemed touristy. About 100 feet in front of the rathaus there were steps that led down to a cul-de-sac of a river, for lack of a better description, where there were swans, ducks, and various other waterfowl begging for food from the tourists. The swans were huge and it was interesting to see swans in the middle of a city in a somewhat small body of water.
After we explored the rathaus, we walked over to St. Michael’s church where we stumbled upon a wedding. The best part was that we were treated to an impromptu a capella concert by what I assume to be the the female contingent of the church choir. The first song they sang was Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (I prefer Rufus Wainright’s version) which is a great song already, but hearing it sung by a church choir in an airy German church was an experience that I will never forget. It also happened to be a Monday afternoon which reminded me that life is so much better when I’m not sitting at a cubicle waiting for the week to be over. We stuck around to listen to a few more songs since I’m a big fan of free a capella concerts at a stranger’s wedding.
Our stop at St. Michael’s was actually an accident since we were really looking for St. Nikolai’s church and tower. We read that it was the best view of the city, but I thought it sucked. There was scaffolding on one side so you really couldn’t see much. If I were a less classy person, I would’ve demanded my money back. Good thing I’m super classy.
Lake Alster in the middle of the city was our next stop. Wow! What a gorgeous spot in the middle of the city. It was full of small sailboats that looked really charming and serene under the afternoon sun. There were people stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing on the lake. We walked past the large grassy area where people were grillin’ and chillin’ and sat by the water watching the sunset. Awwwwww! How romantical and whatnot.
The next day we visited the harbor and the Elbe Tunnel. The tunnel was built under the city’s water table and uses the same building technique that was used for the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s about all I understand of the engineering behind the construction of the tunnel, but it’s a nice bit of trivia to have.
I had my last fischbrochten at the harbor and it was fantastic. I went for the fried fish filet and it was so fresh and delicious that my mouth is watering as I write this sentence. Mmmmm.
We then explored the second largest rural cemetery in the world because it’s one of Kanako’s morbid interests. You can read her post here.
After several fun-filled hours at the cemetery, we met up with our CS host for dinner before meeting up with her boyfriend to check out the seedier parts of Hamburg. Her boyfriend lives in the heart of the action so we walked down to the Hamburg hipster area, had ice cream, and people watched. There were tons of young people eating at outdoor restaurants and drinking on the sidewalks. It made me wish I was twentysomething again.
Afterwards, we headed towards Reeperbahn, the redlight street of Hamburg, a touristy area which vaguely reminded me of Times Square in the nineties. Prostitution is legal in Germany so there were a bunch of lovely ladies standing around trying to pick up clients. I found it interesting that they were all wearing fanny packs rather than purses. I guess it’s more practical since a fanny pack is harder to steal. Smart German hookers.
Our hosts took us to a spot where there was an alley that is considered the red light district of Hamburg. It was blocked off with a huge sign forbidding women from entering. It’s sexist, but they only allow men to walk through because they want clients, not gawkers. But, what if a lady wants a lovely lady for the hour? Oh well. Their loss.
We only had a few days in Hamburg, but it’s a city that I wouldn’t mind visiting again. It has something for everyone and if you live there, you can call yourself a Hamburger. I’d consider moving there just for that.
See more Hamburger pictures here.